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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Bradbury Report by Steven Polansky

Polansky, Steven.  The Bradbury Report.

An ARC from Tandem that explores some of the moral dilemmas involved when the government takes over cloning as a means of...well, having spare body parts that would not be rejected as the parts would be used by "the original."

I have always found cloning a dangerous development, but the future described here is not one that I believe will ever happen.  Nevertheless, many of the questions will arise if (as?) the process becomes safer-- even if the government never plans to create people for spare parts or designer children.

The novel begins slowly and the protagonist is not particularly likable.  He isn't evil or cruel; he is a man who is quite ordinary in most ways.  Contacted by Anna, a woman who knew him over 40 years ago, "Ray" finds himself involved in an anti-cloning Resistance movement and is soon on the run along with Anna and a clone, trying to stay ahead of the government that wants to silence them.

The Bradbury Report is begun in 2071 by the 66-year-old narrator to provide information about the experience.  He doesn't try to spare himself.

You may note some similarity to Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro--a certain bleakness that is evident before you really know why, as well as the concept of creating clones for body parts. In Ishiguro's novel, the young clones attend an elite boarding school and are sheltered.  Polansky's clones survive in concentration camp atmosphere, with no benefit of education, love, or even communication with each other.

Both novels examine what it means to be human, but Ishiguro sucks you in with both his beautiful prose and misdirections.  In Polansky's novel,  "Ray" (the pseudonym assumed for writing the Bradbury Report) admits  has no real skill at writing and does his best to explain all the circumstances factually.

I didn't enjoy either novel.  The oppressive subject matter and moral dilemmas make my heart hurt.  Literally, a heart-ache.  Yet the subject matter--while carried to an extreme in both novels for effect--forces us to examine cultural values and the potential for corruption that comes with scientific advancement.

(As to the allusion to the real Ray Bradbury-- in 2071, he probably wouldn't be widely read, but Polansky also includes a reference to the song "Dandelion Wine" at the end of the novel.  Bradbury's novel of that name is one that also had a great deal of poignancy.)

Here is a list of speculative fiction about cloning, books reviewed by a member of the Human Cloning Foundation!  Now, that is just scary.  There are other lists as well, I'm sure and they may not include the same novels.  Maybe I should look for some nonfiction books about the ethics of cloning; I'd need popular science for the layman, nothing technical.

What books have you read on this topic?  Fiction or Nonfiction?

Fiction.  Speculative Fiction/Science Fiction.  2009.  326 pages. 


  1. I don't think I've read any books on cloning although I do have the Ishiguro novel and definitely want to read it (I love the way he writes). Hope you find a non-fiction read that is interesting!

  2. I may just look on line first. I Googled "clone" and found lots of stuff.

    Ishiguro does atmosphere like no one else.

  3. While it doesn't involve clones, The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist (translated by Marlaine Delargy)has similar ethical issues. When a childless and unmarried person turns 50, he/she is considered dispensable, and sent to live in a luxury hospital/hotel. Over time, they are harvested for their parts, until they make the 'final' donation. It brings up the topic of value and quality of life.

  4. Anon - It is a pretty scary concept, the harvesting of parts from living human beings. I'll look for a copy of The Unit...thanks!